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Thoughts on a Ballpark

September 17th, 2007 by Troy Goodfellow · 1 Comment · Design

Saturday night, I went to the Braves-Nationals game, probably my final game at RFK. Next year, a new stadium opens on the waterfront, paid for by the tax dollars of the citizens of Washington DC, because I guess they have money to throw around in the hope that it will lead to business development.

I will be glad to see the end of RFK. It’s a terrible park. Hideous architecture. Lousy overpriced concessions. The video monitors and out of town scoreboards are too small to follow. The concourses are very narrow, so it can be a real pain getting around when it’s crowded. Sure, a night in any ballpark beats a night not at a game, but every time I go to RFK, I love Camden even more.

But as I sat in my seat for the final inning (7-5 Nats win, by the way.), I realized that the sight lines were great. Here I was in section 511 and I could see the entire field. The players didn’t look like ants, either. Considering the vintage of the stadium, I’m pretty pleased that I never missed anything that happened on the field.

So the ostensible reason to go to the game – to see the game – was met more than satisfactorily. It was the other stuff (food, drink, visuals, etc.) that I hated, and it’s not strictly baseball stuff. It’s enough for me to consider my RFK experiences unpleasant, though.

There are a lot of things in video games that are like ballpark concessions. Though not necessarily part of the “game”, they contribute to the entire experience. As a game strictly understood, Bioshock is a shooter like many shooters that have come before. But the music, art and theme lift it above the run of the mill variation on pistol/shotgun/beehive arm. It’s come to the point where you can’t make a game without sound or illustrative imagery any more than you can open a stadium without hot dogs. It’s expected.

And, as I age, I learn to appreciate how the art design of a game (“graphics” if you insist) are so integral to the entire experience. I’ve written before about how the “graphics/gameplay” dichotomy is a ludicrous simplification of the art of game design, and I think that real life has more to say to us about how good experiences are wrapped up in things not necessarily inherent in the core experience.


One Comment so far ↓

  • Scott R. Krol

    Interesting analogy. But you can make games without sound or illustrative imagery, as witnessed by the IF community. You just can’t make mainstream games. :)

    Your example could also be used to illustrate why gameplay is still king, rather than graphics. You say that while the park in general blows, you had great seats. The best hot dogs in the world, and the coolest big screen monitors won’t mean a thing if you’re stuck behind a cement post, unable to see the game. They may help elevate an average experience into something greater, but cannot save a poor experience to begin with. Likewise, yeah, good art design can create a greater illusion, but if the gameplay isn’t there to begin with it won’t matter.